Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reading Journal: Fault Lines, by Nancy Huston (2006)

A novel in four parts, each narrated by a six-year-old a generation after the last - 2004, 1982, 1962, and 1944-45 - and one that captivates right from the first page, when it breaks down the fourth wall and demands that you suspend your disbelief, much like Joyce's "moocow" in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: "A      sunny     Sunday    sun     sun     sun    sun    king     Sol     Solly     Solomon    I'm like sunlight, all-powerful, instantaneous and invisible, flowing effortlessly into the darkest corners of the universe    capable at six of seeing    illuminating    understanding    everything". Huston's practically taunting her reader, saying "Yeah, my narrator's smarter than a six-year-old should be, but you're going to go along with it, aren't you?", and it sucks you in completely. As a reverse narrative, the chronological last moment happens at the end of Part One, which I of course had to re-read after I finished Part Four; and while the book's ending is powerful, it sends you right to the story's ending again and amplifies it, giving you the rush that comes with putting the pieces together. On top of this surprisingly simple trick, Huston's writing is clear, simple and engaging, which is a rare find for me among other writers who focus this much on the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters - usually I find myself wanting to skim those parts. And a final rave: in Part Three, in another rare occurence for me (though not for all readers), I heard a real voice talking to me as I read, an actual little girl speaking. Am I cracking up? I don't think so: I think Huston is that good. She has a Governor General's Award to her credit, but as someone who writes first in French then translates her own work, by the time it comes to English-speaking Canadian audiences I think it gets overlooked as a work in translation instead of praised as fine new Canadian literature. One book is all it took to wake me up, though - I'd put her with Steven Heighton among the most criminally undercelebrated writers in our country.

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